In Philippe Parreno’s ‘H{N)Y P N(Y}OSIS,’ everything is entrancing.

It begins when you enter the cavernous structure of the Park Avenue Armory. The place is a historic brick building that fills an entire city block on Manhattan's upper east side. It is so dramatic and impressive, it puts you in a state. The lights, sounds and images used by Parreno that follow walk you through a series of hypnotic inductions. I don't know if that was the artist's intent, but as a hypnotist, I must believe he's studied in Trance. I could feel the fundamentals my states being played like strings. To say "I enjoyed it" would be reductive. More accurately, I experienced it. That's a compliment.

Short films are shown on three giant screens towards the back of the room. During one film called "The Crowd", a crowd is shown onscreen watching something offscreen. It was shot in the armory itself, where I was standing. The points of view on the crowd change in between slowly unfolding shots of flames and spiraling wind. They are set to music, or other carefully chosen sounds.

There is a moment when you look around at your fellow participants and realize you are part of a crowd watching a crowd watching a crowd watching... Maybe another crowd? It's a moment of Russian Dolls that silently points to a meta narrative. The particular story depend on the experience of the viewer. The feeling it gave me somehow resulted in trust for the artist. I did what I could to ignore my self-talk and shifted my attention to the senses.

I wonder if Philippe Parreno knows that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis? And if he does, I wonder if he thought of that while making this work?

 Philippe Parreno Photo: Claudio Cassano

Philippe Parreno
Photo: Claudio Cassano

The beauty of my experience at H{N)Y P N(Y}OSIS, and why I'm going back, is the purity of its elements. I felt no grand statement, no dominant message or agenda. I was instead reminded that beautiful piano music is a kind of progressive relaxation, light and shadow are constantly dancing, the simplest archetypal images remain the most powerful, and big ideas belong in big spaces. The large scale of the piece reinforces its intimacy. 

I'm grateful to the artist, and hungry for an intelligent dialogue about trance states and hypnosis. Without knowing where that might lead, Mr. Parreno also reminds me that oftentimes, creativity, healing and trance are found together.